One thing the US Army needs to fix is the way it assigns weapons in the MTOE.
OIF/OEF has exposed some of the problems with Army thinking on this subject. The following rules describes the current situation:
1. One soldier, one weapon. Except for special situations such as military police or special forces, who gets both a pistol and a long arm per soldier.
2. Company Commanders get pistols. Lieutenant Colonels and above (and most Sergeants Major) get pistols always. Majors may get M-16/M-4s if necessary. Everyone else gets M-16/M-4s or machine guns.
3. Some Corps and EAC units will get more pistols due to the (supposed) reduced threat environment.
The above rules made the pistol a status item in the military: If you carry a pistol, you must be important. Nevermind that the pistol is only good in special situations. The soldier who has only a pistol is under-protected by the Army.
In OIF/OEF, however, the special situations come up all the time for the line infantry and ad hoc infantry: In close-quarter combat, pistol is crucial as a backup. When your M-16 magazine is almost empty, it may be faster to draw your pistol and keep firing, as opposed to taking the time to change out the magazine. Snipers and machine gunners also need a pistol for close defense.
At the same time, many staff officers carry pistols as their only weapon. However, a pistol has limited range and cannot penetrate body armor. In the modern 360-degree, non-linear battlefield, a soldier with only a pistol has a limited chance to survive.
However, the status symbol of the pistol meant that, at the beginning of OIF/OEF, there was a critical shortage of pistols for the line companies. The US Army has bought more M9 Berettas to fill the requirement, and the real MTOE, as opposed to the official one, for most active duty line companies now include more pistols.
At the same time, staff officers need to give up their pistols and pick up a personal defense weapon or carbine. Everyone in the Army needs to be ready to defend themselves against an enemy soldier.